Is the Local Control Funding Formula Improving Education for English Learners?

A report released yesterday raises serious concerns about whether California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is delivering on its promise to improve educational services for English learners (ELs), a group that accounts for more than one-fifth of all K-12 students in California’s public schools (see chart below). Approved by lawmakers almost three years ago, the LCFF provides additional dollars to school districts based on their number of disadvantaged students — ELs, foster youth, and students from low-income families. The LCFF requires school districts to adopt Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that both set goals for each group of disadvantaged students and describe specific actions the district will take to meet those goals. The LCFF also requires school districts to increase or improve services for disadvantaged students, but it deferred to the State Board of Education (SBE) key decisions about how LCAPs would be used to hold districts accountable.

ELs as a share of CA K-12 Students 2014-15-01

Yesterday’s report was published by Californians Together, a coalition of statewide organizations that promotes ELs’ access to quality education. This study analyzes the second year LCAPs of more than two dozen school districts that together represent nearly one-third of California’s ELs. Similar to Californians Together’s analysis of these districts’ first year LCAPs, this new report finds that the majority of school districts’ second year LCAPs remain very weak in responding to ELs’ needs and concludes that “LCAPs do not serve as either an adequate planning mechanism or a sufficient accountability measure to ensure that English Learners will have equitable access to the education they need.”

LCAPs are meant to be a central component of an accountability framework that promised to deliver increased or improved services for ELs, among other disadvantaged students. However, Californians Together’s latest report is one of numerous studies that have pointed to significant problems with school district LCAPs.

The SBE has recognized the need to revise the current LCAP template, and last month’s SBE meeting agenda included a timeline that describes how that revision will happen. This timeline includes several opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the LCAP process prior to September, when the SBE is expected to adopt changes to the LCAP template. To help maintain the LCFF’s vision, the SBE should heed the recommendation of yesterday’s report that calls upon the state to reaffirm the equity commitment of the LCFF and to target resources to serve disadvantaged students. If the LCFF does not live up to the principle of equity, California’s ELs — well over a million of the state’s K-12 public school students — may not have access to the quality education they need to achieve the state’s high academic standards.

— Jonathan Kaplan